Photo by PETE TROSHAK
Halfway through a triumphant set at the Fillmore on Thursday night, Garbage singer and Scottish firebrand Shirley Manson stared out into a crowd and asked “Who would’ve pegged Garbage as a band that would’ve fucking survived the nineties?” Manson along with guitarists Steve Marker and Duke Erikson and bad-ass drummer/uber producer Butch Vig have not only survived but thrived over the course of 25 years since their debut. With Jane’s Addiction Eric Avery taking on bass duties, the band set out on tour this year to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of their second album Version 2.0, a hit album on which the band shrugged off any notion of a sophomore slump with a heady mixture of buzzsaw jangle pop and electronic beats. For their current tour the band committed to playing the entirety of Version 2.0 and all of it’s B-sides as their main set every night. Freed from the shackles of playing a rote greatest hits set, the band made magic in Philly while performing a 23-song set including half dozen songs that most of their fans had never heard live and in some cases never heard at all.
Garbage kicked off their set with Version 2.0 B-side “Afterglow,” an undiscovered torch ballad gem that found Manson delivering her vocals as if she were a slinky singer in a seedy nightclub in a dimestore pulp novel. Throbbing electronic rocker “13x Forever” found Manson prowling the stage spitting verbal venom on an ex-love and left the crowd wondering why this song never made it on a proper album. Another B-side highlight was a simultaneously thrashy and gleeful cover of The Seeds 1966 garage pop nugget “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine.” Garbage delivered an ethereal version of their Jame Bond theme “The World is Not Enough,” with Marker and Erikson exquisitely carving out the cold war spy riffage of the song while Manson’s vocals soared over the icy music. The rarely played songs were far from the only highlights. The power pop and rollercoaster rhythms of “Special” brought a roar from the crowd early on. Mid-set the band delivered a fragile but beautiful “Medication” during which Manson gave a master class in how to use your vocals to take a crowd on an emotional journey in a three minute pop song.
Late in the set “Push It” threatened to tear the roof off the joint with Vig’s ferocious drumming driving the band to an even higher gear and Manson goading the normally stoic Avery into pogo-ing with her with the entire crowd on the floor of the venue bouncing wildly along with them. Manson, eternally one of the most loquacious singers in rock, warned the crowd early in the night that she was in a talkative mood. In between songs she shared her feelings on a number of topics including how on one of their early tours she had a massive crush on Live’s guitar tech (Matt Rice, you missed your shot), how much she loved the vibe of the Fillmore and how important it is for people to vote. She spoke from the heart about how beautiful and unique the democracy of America compared to the other countries the band has visited over the last quarter of a century. Manson heaped praise on Big Star and Alex Chilton before the band gave a slow and beautiful rendition of Big Star’s “Thirteen.” During the prelude to the song, Manson admitted that even though they had recorded their cover over twenty years ago, she had only recently truly unlocked the meaning of “Thirteen.” Manson described the song as representative of that moment in everyone’s young life where they first realize that the have free will and that the future holds unlimited possibilities, which probably mirrors how the band felt as they started work on Version 2.0 twenty years ago. — PETE TROSHAK